What are bullying and harassment?
Bullying is offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient. The behaviour or treatment may relate to a person’s gender, disability, gender re-assignment or gender identity, race, religion, sexual orientation, age or any other protected characteristic.
Bullying does not need to be deliberate; someone may demonstrate bullying behaviour, without intending to. Bullying may be obvious or it may be more covert. Whichever form it takes, it is unwarranted and unwelcome to the individual and will often cause embarrassment, fear, humiliation or distress to an individual or group of individuals.
Bullying can take the form of physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct. Non-verbal conduct includes postings on social media outlets. Bullying may include, by way of example:
- shouting at, being sarcastic towards, ridiculing or demeaning others
- physical or psychological threats
- overbearing and intimidating levels of supervision
- inappropriate and/or derogatory remarks about someone's performance
- abuse of authority or power by those in positions of seniority
- deliberately excluding someone from meetings or communications without good reason.
Legitimate, reasonable and constructive criticism of performance or behaviour, or reasonable instructions given, will not amount to bullying on their own.
Harassment is behaviour which is unwanted and which violates a person’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. The views of the person who is being subjected to the unwanted behaviour are important when considering whether something constitutes harassment.
Harassment may involve sexual harassment or be related to a protected characteristic such as age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy or maternity, race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. Find out more about sexual harassment
Electronic harassment can take place through electronic media, for example, email, instant messaging, social networking websites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, blogs), or text messages. When sending emails or other electronic communications, staff and students should consider the content, language and appropriateness of such communications.
Some forms of harassment are considered a Hate Crime. A hate incident or crime is any act of violence or hostility against a person or property that is motivated by hostility or prejudice towards a person due to a particular protected characteristic. Find out more on hate crime.
Harassment may include, for example:
- unwanted physical conduct or ‘horseplay’, including touching, pinching, pushing, grabbing, brushing past someone, invading their personal space and more serious forms of physical or sexual assault
- offensive or intimidating comments or gestures, or insensitive jokes or pranks
- mocking, mimicking or belittling a person’s disability
- racist, sexist, homophobic or ageist jokes, or derogatory or stereotypical remarks about a particular ethnic or religious group or gender
- outing or threatening to out someone as gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans
- ignoring or shunning someone, for example, by deliberately excluding them from a conversation or a social activity.
A person may be harassed even if they were not the intended "target". For example, a person may be harassed by racist jokes about a different ethnic group if they create an offensive environment.